Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Google Gets Clever

January 4, 2012 by Aaron Goldman



Three weeks ago Google bought Clever Sense, maker of the app-ssistant, Alfred.

Last week, I shared my take in MediaPost’s Search Insider: Will Clever Sense Help Google Become The Perfect Search Engine?

Sometime, we’ll get our answer.


Thoughts on the Zagat Deal: Content is Information. Information is Power.

September 15, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

Last week Google bought Zagat for a rumored $125 million. I shared a quick point of view on the deal with MediaPost for its coverage: Google Buys Zagat To Support Mobile Local

“Zagat gives Google quality reviews to fuel business listings through Google Places,” said Aaron Goldman, Kenshoo CMO. “Professional reviews, rather than biased reviews from families of restaurant owners or competitors that weaken the signal from other review sites, is what differentiates Zagat.”

Over the past week, there’s been a healthy debate about Google getting into the content creation business and whether that jeopardizes its status as an unbiased search company. For what it’s worth, I think that’s a very tired and, frankly, irrelevant thread.

Google’s in the business of organizing (and monetizing) all the world’s information. Zagat’s content is very valuable information for restaurant seekers. Local and mobile search queries are becoming more and more prevalent. So what better way for Google to improve (and monetize) its local restaurant information than by buying a company that has developed a means to continually provide it?

The bottom line is Joe Searcher doesn’t care if Google is biased. Joe Searcher has come to learn (and trust) that Google will find the best and most relevant information for each query. Joe also doesn’t care how Google gets the information. In fact, Joe might prefer Google to be biased if it means it can give him the best and most relevant information.

This isn’t about journalism or publishing. This isn’t about church and state. This is about needs and fulfillment. Supply and demand. Once again, Google is well-positioned at the intersection. And it will continue to zig-zag along the way.


Nonplussed by Google+ (Update: I’m getting Plussed!)

June 30, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

This week Google introduced its sharing (not to be confused with “social”) network, Google+.

Here are some initial thoughts and observations. Will add more as I dig in further.

1. I’m just as conflicted over the name as I was with Google +1. On one hand, it’s short and I get it. On the other it’s a nightmare to toggle between + and “plus.”

2. They key to social (and sharing) is scale. The more people in the network, the more valuable the network. Google has a lot of people. Now it just needs to connect them. Google+ should help.

3.Advertising opportunities in and around Google+ will likely be less about new units or formats but rather advanced targeting. This is another way for advertisers to more finitely target and reach the folks most likely to be interested in their message. Whether that message appears on Google+ or another Google owned, operated, or connected property is TBD.

4. On Google+ are Friends, Family, and Acquaintances. I’m surprised Business or Work is not a standard classification. Would help Google compete with LinkedIn just as much as Facebook and Twitter.

5. As a user, I love the circles concept. It’s intuitive and the fact that Google+ is new allows me to start fresh by categorizing my connections and sharing only the appropriate stuff with the appropriate peeps. Wish I could have done this on Facebook from day 1. As it stands, I end up sharing less on FB because I don’t want to bother my personal friends and family with work-related stuff and don’t always want my industry colleagues to see my personal stuff.

6. I’m surprised that the search box isn’t more prominent on Google+. In fact, I don’t see one at all. Goes against my premise in Chapter 5: Be Where Your Audience Is. They must be counting on people using their toolbars and browser defaults to Google things. Sure seems like a missed opportunity though, especially given how many search queries originate in Facebook. (See update from July 2 below.)

7. The privacy police will be watching closely any little screwup will fetch headlines.

Update July 1, 2011:

8. Been thinking more about why Google rolled out a sharing network rather than a social network. Now actually seems pretty obvious to me. Contrary to #6 above (which I do expect to be remedied in short order) this IS about improving Google’s bread and butter product and monetization engine — Search.

Every share that happens within Google+ gives a critical signal to Google of the value and context for a specific digital asset – website, video, image, etc. It also allows Google+ to see who the real influencers are on the web based on number of shares and +1s. Pretty soon Google will no longer need to rely on links created by webmasters as its primary method of determining quality and authority for search rankings.

More on this line of thinking:

Like vs. Link and the Future of Web Ranking

Why Google Needs a Social Network

Why Google Me

9. Yes, I’m happy the name of this project is Google+ and not Google Me so I can keep on wearing my shirts with no fear or trademark violation. No, I have no plans to create Plus Me shirts. :)

Update July 2, 2011:

10. Regarding point #6 above, perhaps I was a bit hasty in saying that Google isn’t “being where its audience is.” While I still think incorporating a search box into the Google+ UX is a no-brainer, Google has brought its new sharing network to where its audience by integrating it into the nav bar atop Google.com, Gmail, and other Google properties and framing it in a block box to really stand out. See screenshot below. I find myself constantly coming back to Google+ because of the not-so-subtle reminder of its existence and the fact that notifications appear there as well.

Update July 13, 2011:

Today I published a column in MediaPost’s Search Insider titled, “Google+ Adds Up.” In it I outlined 10 key takeaways from Google+ to date including some of the observations posted here.

Update July 14, 2011:

Yesterday I was asked what impact I thought G+ would have on LinkedIn. In composing my thoughts, I stumbled upon a key insight from Google’s foray into search that very likely may have dictated its (most recent) approach to social. Read on…

I don’t think G+ will eat away at LinkedIn. People use LinkedIn to connect, not share. G+ is for sharing. That’s why it will hurt Twitter. Twitter sole purpose is sharing and the experience/UI is not very intuitive (especially when it comes to controlled sharing).

Same reason I don’t think G+ will eat at Facebook. While sharing is the #1 activity on Facebook, it’s use as a full social network is broader and includes that connecting aspect of LinkedIn. It’s about making new relationships as much as sharing with current ones.

Google dominated search because it had the luxury of not being first mover. It saw what Yahoo and Alta Vista and others did and took the key functionality and made it better. Rather than a portal with a bunch of links and content, it just stripped out the search.

Same now for social. Google had luxury of seeing FB, Twitter, LI, etc. And now it realizes sharing is the most vital aspect of social networking. So it’s stripped that out and built a whole experience around just that.


Zeroing in on Google +1

April 7, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

In yesterday’s MediaPost Search Insider column (+10 and -10 for Google +1), I shared 10 things I love and 10 things I hate about Google +1. It just so happens that the lists contained the same 10 things. Behold the definition of a love/hate relationship!


Why Groupon Matters

December 14, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

Yesterday, in my post “On Groupon and Google,” I derided Groupon as nothing more than a “COUPON WEBSITE.”

I was being dramatic to make the point that, if it wanted to, Google could quickly and effectively build something of similar scale to Groupon.

That’s not to say that Groupon itself isn’t incredibly valuable. And might even be worth $5-6 billion. Here’s why:

1. Brand recognition. Groupon is the Google of the deals space. When Groupon calls, merchants answer. And when Groupon emails, consumers open.

2. Relationships with merchants. Small/medium-sized (SMB) businesses in cities around the world look to Groupon as a shot in the arm for sales. Not unlike how they looked at Google a few years ago. The problem, of course, for SMBs is that Google taps out once all the relevant queries are tapped and bids get too high.

3. Relationships with consumers. Every day, Groupon sends me an email. And every day I look at it. I can’t think of many other brands I have that frequent interaction with.

4. Data. Groupon is sitting on a treasure trove of data. What offers people like. What offers YOU like. What price points make a deal tip. There are tons of companies that could monetize the heck out of this.

5. Revenue. Rumors are Groupon is doing anywhere from $800 million to $2 billion in annual revenue. That’s pretty easy to value.

Clearly, Groupon has built a fantastic company with tremendous value. But, as any entrepreneur knows, one of the keys to success is defensibility of the business model. And, as I pointed out yesterday, I’m not sure how defensible Groupon is… at least not when it has companies like Google keen on getting into its space. That’s why if I were Andrew Mason, I’d be getting mine while the getting’s good.


On Groupon and Google

December 13, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

OK, I’ll say it…

I think Groupon was NUTS to turn down $5-6 billion from Google.

I mean, c’mon now, we’re talking about a COUPON WEBSITE here!

As for what Google wanted with Groupon?

1. Something more than AdWords to offer SMBs and increase share-of-wallet. After all, there are only SO many people Googling “Dry Cleaners 60622.”

2. A big honking opt-in mailing list to have deeper commerce touchpoints with consumers than fleeting search queries. (Botiques.com is another example of this.)

I have to believe Google could build these things itself.

1. Hire a bunch of freelance salespeople (or buy a Yellow Pages company) and get in front of SMBs with offers to run Groupon-esque deals.

2. Launch Google Deals and send an email to every Gmail user with the opportunity to opt-in.

If it only took Groupon a couple years to scale sales and stimulate demand, I bet Google could do it in one.

There you have it.

Eric, Sergey and Larry – if you’re reading this, that’ll be $5.4 billion, please.

Update: To be clear, I’m not saying Groupon isn’t worth $5-6 billion. I’m just saying Google shouldn’t pay that much for it because it can build something of similar scale itself. Perhaps I should’ve changed my second line to, “I think Google was NUTS to offer $5-6 million for Groupon.” Lest you think I’m not a big Groupon fan and believer, please see my follow-up post, “Why Groupon Matters.”


Is Google Manipulative?

December 6, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

Last week brought word that Google is being investigated by the European Commission for abusing its dominant market position and preventing competition (aka acting like a monoploy) with the way it ranks websites in organic listings. Naturally, Google responded by playeing its trump card of “we only do what’s best for users.” Ahh, gotta love the altruism!

Laurie Sullivan covered the news in her MediaPost piece, “EU Opens Antitrust Probe Into Google SEO And Paid-Search Practices.”

When asked for my position on Google abusing its position by “manipulating rankings,” here’s what I told Laurie…

“Manipulating rankings” is Google’s business model. The question is whether it is manipulating maliciously and stifling competition in the process. It will be tough to make this case. Google has a long track record of manipulating rankings solely for the purpose of giving searchers more relevant results.


AOL Gets Googlier

September 3, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

MediaPost Online Media Daily

Here’s the POV I shared with Laurie Sullivan at MediaPost for her coverage of the AOL-Google news – AOL’s Mobile And Video Push Powers Google Search Deal.

I’m not surprised that AOL renewed its deal with Google. With Tim Armstrong and Jeff Levick both being ex-Googlers, there’s no doubt they had the insider knowledge required to get the best possible terms, not to mention figure out the best possible way for the 2 companies to collaborate.

It’s interesting to see that the deal covers more than just Google distributing search ads to AOL. It has AOL providing content to Google. In my book, I talk about how AOL has rebranded as a new economy content company. They’ve done a good job positioning themselves to capitalize on the type of content that’s easier to monetize — not news, weather, and sports but travel, entertainment, and health. I see AOL succeeding with content where newspapers are failing. And it’s ironic because Google succeeded in online advertising where AOL failed.


Can you spell SEM CPA?

September 2, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

MediaPost Online Media Daily

Shared a few sound-bytes with Laurie Sullivan at MediaPost for her article, “Search Engine CPA Patent Goes Up For Sale.”

Here’s the POV I provided…

Well, I’m no intellectual property expert but I wonder if this concept is even patentable [Clarification: meant to say, "I wonder if this patent is even enforceable."] It’s not like Bill Gross was able to patent CPC on search engines.

That said, the closest thing we’ve seen to CPA search results to date was Microsoft’s failed experiment with Cashback. The idea was advertisers would essentially pay a CPA for actual conversions and a portion of that fee would be passed along as incentive to the searcher. Microsoft never got the advertiser adoption it needed to scale Cashback and, without a lot of offers, it wasn’t able to provide a great user experience.

One of the biggest challenges in a pure CPA search model would be getting advertisers comfortable with implementing new tracking code on their websites to allow the search engine(s) to track actions. Fortune 500 companies and leading internet retailers are already leery of letting the fox into the henhouse.


Thoughts On Google’s Net Neutrality Position

August 19, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

Swiss Flag

Last week Google and Verizon announced a “Joint Policy Proposal for an Open Internet.”

This triggered an outcry from a wide range of constituents including policy-makers, consumer advocacy groups, and even the Daily Show.

Here’s my quick POV…

The lesson of chapter 16 is “Altruism Sells.” To date, Google has avoided severe backlash when it comes to public policy because of its “Don’t Be Evil” halo.

I’m not sure Google can hide behind that credo much longer though. I’m no expert on net neutrality but what’s clear to me is the proposal Google laid out with Verizon protects its own interests first.

It’s no coincidence that Google is getting into bed with one of the largest carriers and advocating different rules for wireless now that it owns one of the biggest mobile operating systems in Android.

For deeper analysis, check out  fellow MediaPost Search Insider Rob Garner’s recent column, “Google’s Shocking Change Of Heart On Net Neutrality.”

Meanwhile, I’ll scontinue brushing up on the details of this proposal and trying to separate facts from myths.

My hunch is that, as I dig in to Google’s efforts to create a Swiss Internet, I’ll find more gaping holes than that country’s well-known cheese.

Swiss Cheese

Image Sources – EPL TALKMuslimMatters.org

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